Fearlessness, Scientific Strategy and Security
Comrades have recently brought up the axiom that fear leads to ignorance and that vanguard leadership is a matter of applying science with guts. It is the science in command that is primary here. Whether it is fear, love or rage, emotion cannot be the basis of our strategy and practice. Similarly, emotive rallying cries and hype cannot be the primary recruiting method of a vanguard organization.
The problem of fear often comes up in relation to those who have privilege that they are afraid of losing (the classic carrot and the stick). It is also used widely among the most oppressed and exploited when it is instilled as a fear of death and torture of friends and families. Among the lumpen who have little privilege to speak of, whose family structure has been destroyed by oppression and who has already faced torture as an individual, the basis for fear is very limited.
An arguable strength of the imperialist country communist movement is our ability to produce scientific analysis with complete independence. This is because our wealth and privilege can actually diminish both fear and class consciousness in a minority of cases. Some of the most dedicated activists in the oppressor nations often have a sense of fearlessness. This is probably necessary to make it over the long haul without turning back to the comfort of one's class privilege.
In both cases of fearlessness we have seen the outcome where people don't take security seriously. Most even scoff at the security practices put forth by the Maoist movement. Others act as if they have too much "important" work to be dealing with to take time worrying about security measures. Translate this to "I'm too lazy to deal with things that are going to make my work harder or take a little longer. I'd rather focus my time on the things that give me glory or that I somehow find some persynal pleasure in." This is subjectivism.
When we work with people who don't even spend one minute a week thinking about security we are potentially sacrificing our own security, and more importantly, the security and integrity of the whole movement. Such people have no role to play in a Leninist cadre organization. Security is not something we study in addition to theory, it stems directly from it.
Contrary to the bourgeois theory of history, bravado and individualism do not decide the course of events. Envisioning oneself standing strong and alone against the great oppressor may be a powerful subjective motivator. But to build ones political practice around such a fantasy is not going to win many battles.
Being serious about ending oppression means being serious about studying the world around us and learning from history. It means developing a strategic understanding of how the oppressed are rising and will succeed and therefore having confidence in the fact that we are acting with the tide of humyn history. If we have this understanding, then it is very obvious to us that we are more effective in contributing to this tide when we are not locked in an isolation cell or buried six feet deep.
Anyone who doesn't believe death or imprisonment are real threats needs to read some history. We may be better revolutionaries without fear, but not without prudence. For those who know the risks but don't care, you need to study history even harder as well as dialectical materialism until you can understand your own power.
There is a related point to make here in regard to the "security" concerns of correctional officers and prison administrators. The most common reason for censorship of our literature in u$ prisons is that MIM(Prisons) is somehow a threat to security. As long as we can agree that "security" for the CO's means less violence and fighting with guards and between prisoners, then our point here can be applied by them as well. While it may be true that our literature tends to attract some of the most defiant prisoners who are likely to physically defend themselves against a guard, our literature literally teaches people not to attack guards, or even violate any rules that would just bring down more repression, even when we are not explicitly stating that.
Overall, we don't expect this line of argument to convince a system that is set up to oppress specific segments of society. But, certainly some individual prison administrators are honestly interested in maintaining the peace without any ulterior political or racial motivations. The rest just keep oinking for more control units and more hazard pay.
Rashid has taken prison officials to task on this with his "The Don't Shank the Guards" handbook (1), which has been censored in a number of states despite a stated purpose that COs should agree with. This handbook provides a similar strategic orientation as MIM(Prisons) does for prisoners who desire to improve their situation. Where this pamphlet fails is in its pandering to the economic interests of amerikans and its call to unite with the "masses" of the united $tates. This line leads to a strategy of putting amerikans first, which oppressed nation prisoners have a slim chance of ever being accepted into. If they succeed then they have only betrayed the oppressed people of the world. MIM(Prisons) puts forth a line that neither promotes shanking the oppressor, nor standing side-by-side with him in political struggle.
But Rashid agrees with us in having strategic confidence and a group approach to struggle: "Having been raised as we are with the idea of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," getting even is deeply ingrained in us, but in a society based upon inequality, getting even carries a high price and is, in fact, impossible: At least it is impossible by individualistic retaliation."
It is exactly such individualism that we need to combat on this side of the fear question in relation to security. Remember, it is also the FBI infiltrators who will have no fear in going up against the state with a few guns, because they know when the bullets start flying you're gonna die and they're gonna be rescued. So fearlessness does not mean going toe-to-toe with an army you cannot defeat. Sun Tzu taught us the idiocy of that centuries ago. And that is exactly what comrades are doing by throwing security out the window. They think they're invincible, they think they're hard, or they're just too lazy to deal with security questions.
"O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands." - Sun Tzu
With the New York State legislator passing a law that forbids "seriously mentally ill" prisoners from being put in SHU (yet to be signed by Governor Spitzer), we can see a clear example of what Rashid is talking about when he writes, "[Riots, flooding cells, setting fires and shanking guards] have only provided prisoncrats with ammunition to demonize us and turn public opinion against us and concern away from prison reform issues and the way we are treated." Some editorials and discussions online among COs and other amerikans indicate the limited scope of this legislation. It is being used to highlight the abuse of CO's instead of prisoners. It is being used to bolster support for the need for SHUs and the need for more high-security mental institutions. And it is creating justification by saying that "we are taking out the prisoners who can't handle the SHU mentally, but everyone else deserves to be there, just look how they are acting out." We had previously criticized the limited scope of this legislation, and passed on campaigning in support of it. Now we are seeing it's use by the state to not just rally support to its side but also to divide the movement against control units.
While amerikans are crying in outrage about all the prisoners who are going to "fake" mental illness to get out of the SHU now, MIM(Prisons) is still saying that the SHU is torture that creates the mental states that exist within it. The humyn mind is but a reflection of material reality. And decades of experience tell us that people who have been in long term isolation often end up throwing excrement at guards as one of the only forms of action they can take on behalf of themselves. Call it mental illness if you want. But we know the cause and we know the cure. If prison officials aren't willing to eliminate the cause, perhaps they will at least let SHU prisoners communicate with MIM(Prisons) so that we can help them understand the futility and even counterproductivity of such actions.
(1) Contact Rashid c/o Art Attack, PO Box 208, Herndon, VA 20172